Top Secret Tips on reading BIG environmental documents

Every wonder how your neighbor gets through the six-thousand or so page environmental document?  Here’s the secret: more often than not - they are not reading six-thousand pages.  They might not even be reading six pages.  This might be the best kept secret in the world of Homeowner Associations, Neighborhood Councils, and Water Districts.  
Spilling the beans:
  • Reading the online version: find a PDF viewer that allows the ability to make marks, bookmarks, and notes

  • Reading a hardcopy: arm yourself with a highlighter, pen, and post-its

  • Look for a table of a table of acronyms and abbreviations.  You will find that HRAs, LONPs and NO2 are not meant to be mysteries.  And, let me just apologize for the entire industry - unfortunately it isn’t our fault there are so many acronyms.

  • Find a friend to read it with.  Come did book clubs (Maybe you still do?), share a chapter, split the book. 

  • Flip through the whole document, see what the whole thing looks like.  Take a quick peek at the chapter titles.  You find there are longer chapters, chapters with more graphics, and there are chapters with tables!

  • Look for the #1 question burning a hole in your pocket and find the answer.  You might find the rest of the document less entertaining if you already figured out the green-speckled summer snail was already identified as a sensitive species.

  • Before tearing into the Executive Summary - flip through it.  Get a sense for how long it will take to read.  Are we looking at “put the kids in the tub and read a couple of pages” or are we looking at “I have to give up my entire weekend, send the kids off to the grandparents and read this thing”.  Once you know what the document size is - you will know how much of a time commitment you will need to make in order to get this done.

  • If you can only read one part of the document, make it the one part you are the most worried about or interested in.  If you can’t find what you are looking for, email the project team and ask for assistance.
It is important to note that not everyone gets paid to read these documents, and sometimes I wonder if these documents have become so large because there are too many people out there getting paid to review these documents. 
I’ve read far more of these documents not because I was paid to, but because these are projects I am personally interested and I have to read them in my “off-time”, like for bedtime reading for Iolani. 
But, when I am paid to read these - I tend to follow all the bullet points above and then read the chapters completely out of order.  I read the chapters that interest me the least first to get them out of the way.  But of course - the last thing I do is read through the list of preparers to see if there’s anyone I know.

Sitting There?

I have a great story to tell you.  Now that my dad is on Facebook, he can corroborate the sequence of events.  I was 15, and a water board commissioner.  And, if you know me, you know that (1) I'm short, and 2) until Iolani came around and I stopped getting restful nights of sleep - I looked young for my age.  So, imaging how intimidating it was for me at 15 to have to sit at commission meetings, be up to speed on the agenda, review minutes, and join in the adult conversation as if I was an equal.

The key part of this was "as if I was an equal".

There was one afternoon that we needed to go to the full county commission for a decision my water commission had made the week prior.  I can't remember now if I needed to be there because the item wasn't supported by the county commission, I just knew I had to be there.

In any case, I arrive to the chambers, and was directed to sit at a specific table reserved for people of my stature...the appointed official.  My dad of course  - seated in the audience...with the rest of the community.

In the background, I see one of the older county commissioners enter into the room and take his seat up on the dais.      He looks out, sees me sitting at this table and says into the microphone: "Hey, little girl, why are you sitting there?"

First off, who calls a 15 year old...a little girl? Ask any 15 year old girl would be offensive.

That wasn't my point.  I can look back to all the things in my life and I can tell you right now...that one comment is what sealed the deal for what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

I sat in that chair and answered: "I am a water board commissioner and this is my seat"

While I continued to justify why I sat in a particular seat, I can still recall that sharp moment of wondering if I was sitting in the right seat - but ultimately...I knew that I was in the right chair.

So, here's my peace/piece for the day: if someone questions you are sitting at a table you were clearly invited just make it clear - you were invited to participate at this table, and you aren't going anywhere.

I know I keep going back and forth between the past and future of this story...readers of GH&T know that I tend to ramble...but I'll continue to justify this effort....

The car ride home from Shelton to Belfair (Because I didn't get my drivers license until I was nearly 17), I had to vent to my dad.  That whole "Little Girl" statement really burned me at first.  But, over the years I realized that it wasn't the "Little Girl" statement that hurt the most... is was the question of "why are you sitting there", seemingly trying to imply that seat was reserved for someone other than me.

Skip to today... I'm in the public affairs, outreach world.  I'll skip the engineers references today, and tell you this... My job is to not ask the question "why are you sitting there"... My job is to ask the question: "why don't you sit here".

There's not a day that I don't enjoy what I do.  I often feel like I might be one of the few people in the whole world that get to say to others "I am doing exactly what I went to school for"

And, with that...I'm going home to get caught up on the Real Housewives of Orange County.

Begging: Vote For Iolani!

I'm trying hard to keep blogging. If I had to blame it on any social media platform, I would say Twitter is my downfall. I can do these one-offs a couple of times a day, releasing the work/live/play tension - not allowing for any kind of bloggable experience. If you piece all my tweets together, you'll likely see that I spend 1/3 of my day winding myself up tight, 1/3 of the day coming down off the wall, and then 1/3 of complete tweeting silence because I'm busy making dinner. All that said, here's a summary of What's Up!

We entered into a contest hosted by our leasing company.  And, I need you to click "Like" once you've finished watching it.  That is...if you can hold back the tears.

Did you "like" it?  Hopefully we can take home a $1,000 prize and get Iolani a new bedroom set.

If we don't win, she's going to start sleeping on the floor as a sign of protest.  So, help me avoid preschool protesting by clicking "like"

We really need your help.  She has about  50+ likes, but we need to get at least 200 more likes in order to stay competitive.  I know it isn't a great movie, I pieced together snippets of her showing that she's grown up in the building.  Don't click for the technical for the sentiment...the warm fuzzy feeling of Iolani screeching "Mine mine mine mine"

What else is new?  Work's busy.  Every year I think to myself "It can't get any more busy"...BAM...I don't remember being so busy before, but also at every phase of one of the projects - it's the first time the project has hit a particular milestone.  It is bound to be busy.  I know you all know what I do, and I don't typically blog about it.  Well, except for that one time I tried to give you all pointers for what to do when giving public comment...and clearly none of you considered it.  I'm >this< close to not giving people any real practical advice about presenting or testifying at public meetings.  I'm not saying I don't get stage fright (because I did one time in 4th Grade), or I don't say stupid things on a live mic (Big hands mean...gets the job done....) >smack head<.  However, I've been talking to the mic since I was 15 (hat tip to Mrs. Lippy), and .... oh hahahhahah  You aren't getting me on a soapbox today!  Sneaky reader....

The indoor composter is working out very well.  It is a NatureMill, and it's awesome.  For one thing, we have a composting machine in the house.  Number 2: it causes me to think about what we are eating in terms of what composter.  The NatureMill needs unseasoned, undairied, and unoiled foods - so we are eating more leafy veggies...more steamed veggies made without sauces.  So, that's yummy.  But also - for some reason, I make less of it because I'm measuring portions.  On one hand, the NautreMill gets our table scraps, and there's less table scraps.  Regardless - it is a nice addition to the house.

It is like having a pet - it needs nurturing, and if you don't maintain  it...there is a smell.  However, with baking soda and appropriate love and care...there's no smell.

And for those who wonder how much love and care it needs...I will tell you this: I don't know of a lot of households that are busier than this one.  Let me tell you how our week went:

Monday: An elected officials briefing and grocery shopping
Tuesday; Work and a community meeting in the afternoon before coming home to make dinner and tub the child
Wednesday: Work and a community meeting in the afternoon and then dinner out
Thursday: a Crazy work day and dinner with Church members
Friday: Date night.  Ah... date night...

If we can maintain a composting machine in our can too!  And, that compost will likely help to keep the dog-pee smell down in the tree planters.  (For those just asking "where do you put your compost when the machine is done with it?"

Here's the ending to another blog posting.  I was going to blab about how much fun last night's date night at the Water Grill was, but I'll save that for a Yelp or Urban Spoon entry.

Thanks for reading!  Bye Bye!